6 tips for the best fried chicken of your life

Not all fried chicken is created equal, and we have some under-the-radar tips and tricks for creating lip-smacking fried chicken that’ll have your eyes rolling to the back of your head. Whether for dinner or a picnic outing, these small measures like seasoning the cooking oil and cutting a whole chicken into the correct amount of pieces will create big time improvement in your fried chicken game.

eating fried chicken

1. Make a marinade.

The secret to succulent fried chicken starts with a marinade or brine which keeps the chicken at its peak juiciness. Traditional fried chicken takes a buttermilk marinade while others swear by a brine, which is a mixture of sugar, salt, and sometimes spices dissolved into water. Up the ante by going the route of a buttermilk brine. Into 1 cup of water, stir in ¼ cup kosher salt, ¼ cup granulated sugar, and spices like smoked paprika, stirring until dissolved. Add 3 to 4 cups of buttermilk to finish the buttermilk brine.

2. Don’t rush it.

The best fried chicken needs a long and luxurious soak in the buttermilk brine. Aim for the chicken pieces to spend at least 24 hours in the liquid with a maximum of 48 hours.

3. Split the chicken breast.

Dividing a whole chicken into pieces is the ideal route for fried chicken in a world where everyone is choosy about their dark meat or white meat preference. However, cutting each chicken breast into 2 or 3 pieces paves the way for better fried chicken. The smaller breast pieces will now have a cooking time more in line with the legs and thighs. The breasts will also be less prone to overcooking too, as large chicken breasts tend to get golden crispy on the outside before being fully cooked on the inside.

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TODAY anchors share their fried chicken secrets

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TODAY anchors share their fried chicken secrets

Play Video - 2:38

4. Season as much as possible.

Sure, you’ve already had the chicken sit in a buttermilk brine, but that’s no reason to skimp on more spices and salt. Adding salt to each step of the fried chicken process is key and more flavor boosts only make it better. For the breading station, add items like chile powder, garlic powder, cayenne powder, salt, and black pepper to the flour dredge. For the milk, stir in any wet condiment, such as hot sauce or sriracha.

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5. Use the correct cooking oil and flavor it.

While a deep fryer isn’t needed for the perfect fried chicken (a cast iron pan filled up with a few inches of oil is fine), the type of oil used is crucial. One with a high smoke point like canola or peanut is preferred. Heat until oil temperature is around 335 degrees; an easy way to determine this without a thermometer is to flick a little flour into the hot oil. When the flour sizzles upon hitting the oil, it’s frying time. A genius tip for the cooking oil is to season it with a few pieces of ginger, peeled garlic cloves, bay leaves, etc., before cooking. Just fry in the oil when warming; remove and discard before adding chicken.

6. Ditch the paper towels.

Don’t ruin all the hard work creating golden fried chicken by placing the finished product into a layer of paper towels. This can cause the chicken to steam, making all the crispiness turn soggy. Instead, line a baking sheet with a wire rack. When each fried chicken piece is finished frying, carefully transfer to the wire rack. The chicken will cool with the excess oil dripping off the rack, all without ruining the masterpiece.